Friday, February 5, 2016

Mongolian Beef Stir Fry

My husband and I love the flavors of Chinese and Asian cuisine.  One of the first recipes I ever made in a wok years ago was Beef and Snow Peas. When I saw this recipe for Mongolian Beef on The Woks of Life (a wonderful site if you enjoy Chinese and Asian food), I knew the piece of beef tenderloin in my freezer had a purpose! Although flank steak is traditionally used to make Mongolian Beef, the beef tenderloin was tender and delicious. I added snow peas to the stir fry and cooked my favorite brown rice to round out the meal.

It was a delicious meal! The meat was all at once sticky, sweet and sour with just amount of sauce coating the perfectly seared and tender meat.  My husband's comment after dinner was "We can have this anytime."  I love to hear that!

Mongolian beef is actually a Chinese-American restaurant creation and has nothing to do with real Mongolian cuisine, I found.  It became very popular served in one of the more well-known changs...oops,l I meant chains :) You will find that it is very similar to Chinese Orange Beef, without the orange.  

Chinese New Year 2016 is officially celebrated from February 8 - 13.  While the United States prepares for the big Superbowl game on Sunday, China will be preparing for the Lunar New Year - The Year of the Fire Monkey.  Many Chinese people travel to their home towns during the annual celebration to visit their families. Recently, a rare snowstorm resulted in over 100,000 (yes, that number is right!) people stuck in the Guangzhou train station. Talk about a travel nightmare! Hopefully, they've all made it to their destinations and will soon be enjoying their favorite authentic Chinese meals with family.

Mongolian Beef Stir Fry

Printable Recipe

Serves 2

8-10 ounces tenderloin of beef or flank steak, sliced against the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices (it's easier to cut if the meat is slightly frozen)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch, plus 1/4 cup for coating meat
1-2 cups of snow peas, cleaned
1 tablespoon oil, for stir-frying the snow peas

1/3 cup vegetable oil, for frying the beef
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water or low sodium chicken stock
1 slightly rounded tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
2 scallions, cut into 1-inch long slices on the diagonal
Additional scallion for garnish, if desired

Rice or noodles for serving

Marinate the beef for 1 hour in 1 teaspoon oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of cornstarch and toss with your fingers until lightly coated.
Meanwhile, prepare the rice or noodles of your choice according to package directions.  Set aside while cooking the beef.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the snow peas and toss until still bright green and just slightly browned - about 1 minute. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and remove with a slotted spoon to a platter and set aside.

Add 1/3 cup of oil to the same pan and heat again. Just when the oil starts to smoke, spread the pieces of beef evenly in the pan, and sear for 30 seconds to 1 minute (depending upon the heat of your pan) until you see a crusty coating. Turn over and let the other side sear for another 30 seconds or so. The beef should be well-seared and browned. Remove to a baking sheet lined with paper toweling. Prepare in two batches if increasing the recipe. 

Drain the oil from the wok, leaving 1 tablespoon behind, and turn the heat to medium. Add the ginger and red pepper flakes. After about 15 seconds, add the garlic. Stir for another 10 seconds and add the soy sauce and chicken stock (or water). Bring the sauce to a simmer, add the brown sugar, and stir until dissolved.

Let the sauce simmer for about 2 minutes and slowly stir in the cornstarch/water mixture and stir until thickened. Add the seared beef and scallions and toss everything for another 30 seconds or until there is almost no liquid left.  Add the beef mixture to the platter with the snow peas, garnish with the additional scallions, if desired, and serve. 

My Notes:  I added a splash of Cabernet wine when adding the liquids to the stir fry as I had an open bottle handy and it felt like a good idea!. 

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Eggs Baked in Creamy Pasta Nests

Here's a delicious meal that you can whip up in less than 45 minutes and you may even have most of the ingredients in your refrigerator or pantry!  It was inspired by Put an Egg On It, by Lara Ferroni, a book that I found by chance while shopping recently.  The photo of this egg dish on the cover had me drooling!

Are you as happy as I am that eggs are no longer shunned as a food that was unhealthy and should be avoided?  Actually, they are quite fashionable now so you need to get on trend! Hopefully, they aren't so 'last year' yet :)

My version of the recipe (you can find the original recipe here), starts with cooked capellini pasta, which is mixed together with some cream (feel free to substitute fat-free or light cream), grated Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley and salt and pepper to taste. This will form the 'nest'. 

Getting that perfectly cooked, soft and slightly runny egg was the hardest part and it took a couple of attempts to get it right.  All ovens are different so times may vary for you. The best test is to lightly touch the top of the egg with your finger when you see the egg white has turned white. If the yolk still feels slightly 'jiggly' inside then it's done.  Remember, it will keep cooking after you remove it from the oven.  If your eggs turn out too well done, you can always whip up a little extra cream sauce and drizzle it over the top as a dressing.

I decided that I needed a salad to make the meal complete, so I lined the plate with a spinach and arugula blend of organic greens before topping it with the pasta/egg nest.  This was so good that my husband ate all of the 'tests' and asked for me to make it for dinner the next night too. 

A truly delicious meal for brunch, lunch or dinner!

Eggs Baked in Creamy Pasta Nests

Printable Recipe

Makes 4 using 1 cup-sized ramekins
(You could also use a 1 quart pyrex dish and make evenly-spaced wells for all four eggs.)

Butter for greasing ramekins
1/2 pound (1/2 box) of capellini pasta or regular spaghetti
4 large eggs

For the cream sauce:
1/2 cup heavy cream (half and half or light cream can be substituted)
1-1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and lightly butter ramekins and place them on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix together the cream, 1/2 cup of grated cheese, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente and drain, reserving a small ladle-full of the pasta cooking water.

Place the cooked pasta into the cream mixture and swirl with tongs to coat well. Add a little of the pasta water, if necessary. Let the pasta remain in the sauce for a few minutes.

Remove about one-fourth of the pasta and and place it in one of the ramekins, swirling as you lay it down. With the tongs, or your fingers, spread the pasta to the outside leaving an indentation in the middle for the egg. Repeat filling the rest of the ramekins. If you still have some cream in the bowl, pour it over each of the pasta nests, otherwise, add a teaspoon or so of cream to the top off each nest.

Bake the nests until the tops are golden and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and carefully, crack an egg into a small cup, and then pour into the center of each nest. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake the eggs for 5 minutes, or until the whites have set. (Alternately, you may put the egg into the nest before baking the nest which will result in a softer, creamier pasta. Bake for about 15 minutes at 400F.)

Let the nests cool for 5 minutes to firm up, then run a knife around the outside of the ramekin and gently remove it. Place on a bed of greens for serving. Garnish with another grind or two of fresh pepper and serve. Delicious!

For original recipe, click here.